Q&A: How to Balance Dress Codes and Figure Flattery

January 15th, 2008

Q:  My job has just introduced a new business casual dress code: the necklines of all women’s shirts must be at the collar-bone or higher! I’ve always read that if you’re really busty you shouldn’t wear crew necks, but how do I balance that with this stupid dress code? And more than that wear does one even find camisoles/ non-knit shells with a neckline that high?

Silk Micro Dot Cap Sleeve Topby Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

It sounds like your company is being unreasonably strict in its dress policy, but perhaps "business casual" has been wrongly interpreted by some of your co-workers.  By deeming that womens’ blouses should have necklines to the collar bone, they are ruling out the risk of any visible cleavage. 

Unfortunately for you, the v-neck is by far the most flattering cut for a large bust.  Furthermore, to find shells or camisoles that reach the collar bone would be very difficult.  You could try crew neck light weight cotton t-shirts as the underpinning and then let the lines of v-neck blouses or sweaters work to your advantage.  However, this is still not a graceful, figure flattering look for you.

Some blouses the have a higher neck but a loose silhouette (like the example below), which would be pretty with a long, dark wide legged pant  for work (and jeans on the weekend). The key here is to balance the proportions of tops to bottoms to create an overall long line.  Finish off the outfit with big earrings or bracelets to help draw the eye away from the bust.

Long story short, you’ll have to submit to crewnecks and boatnecks to comply with company policy, but you can work within these guidelines to create moderately flattering looks.  Final style tip?  To look your best in these cuts, be sure to invest in very good bras.

Have a great tip about how to balance dress codes and figure flattery?

  Share it with us in the comments!

Silk Micro Dot Cap Sleeve Top | $68 at Banana Republic.

Style question?  We’ve got answers.  E-mail us at tips at omiru dot com, or leave us a comment with your question.

Entry Filed under: Q&A,Women,Women's

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Meg from The Bargain Queens & All About Appearances  |  January 15th, 2008 at 4:30 am

    I’d definitely go with the boatnecks! Crewnecks can indeed be awful at times, but boat or bateau necklines work just fine for us busty gals in my experience.

    And don’t forget about button-up shirts! I know that they’re harder for us busty gals to wear, but find a good one with enough buttons in the right spots and they can still work great.

  • 2. leanne  |  January 15th, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    in addition to the advice for office policy, i will be interviewing this weekend for graduate school positions on the east coast (i am from so. california) and am not sure how to dress fashionably for cold weather – i don’t want to look like an eskimo! our dress code is “casual dress,” please help me!

  • 3. Trisha  |  January 16th, 2008 at 1:16 am

    Boatnecks–great tip, Meg!

  • 4. Mimi  |  January 16th, 2008 at 2:29 am

    Can you wear buttoned up blouses with a button left open? Or with the 2 top buttons open and a cute scarf to cover the neck area? How about a cardigan twinset?
    Or am I showing my age with scarves and twinsets? LOL

    Regarding the graduate school interview– I’d go with the classic look — a good pair of wool slacks in black, gray, tobacco brown, and a mid-weight sweater with boots. Plus an overcoat of course. You can dress it up or down with jewelry (either clunky & funky or classic-subdued). Leather gloves always look smart, and you might want to bring a knit scarf/hat.

    I’m always surprised at how “formal” everyone looks outside of California. We’re so laid back here!

  • 5. Trisha  |  January 16th, 2008 at 2:41 am


    Even though the dress code is “casual dress,” dress up because you’re going to be interviewing. Also, “casual” on the East Coast is not the same as California casual. You don’t have to suit up, but skip the jeans and opt for tailored trousers or a knee-length or longer skirt. Like Mimi said, a classic look is recommended. Since you’re interviewing on the East Coast, you want the look to be more J Crew (read: preppy, conservative) than Gap. Keep the fashion formula classic, as Mimi suggests, but you can add your own flair through a bold color or funky jewelry.

    Hope that helps,

  • 6. leanne  |  January 16th, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you so much, everyone! Wish me luck!!

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